Look, any band that sells more than 113,000 copies of an album in one week has little to be upset about. But with all the hullabaloo surrounding the release of Hawthorne Heights' If Only You Were Lonely — most of it generated by their label, Victory Records — you could understand if the guys were slightly disappointed by their #3 debut on the Billboard albums chart.
After a salvo of hyperbolic press releases portraying Hawthorne as the saviors of indie-label rock (see "Hawthorne Heights Deny Ne-Yo Beef, Pick Oreos Over Cristal") and bizarre e-mails and insider jokes aimed at limiting sales of Def Jam crooner Ne-Yo's debut album (see "Hawthorne Heights' Anti-Ne-Yo Campaign 'A Joke,' Label Claims"), HH's Lonely still couldn't take the top spot (see "Ne-Yo Rises Above Hawthorne Heights With A Landslide Billboard Win").
As if that weren't embarrassing enough, now they've got to deal with a phony public service announcement made by a bunch of kids in New Jersey that pokes fun at Victory's rather, um, aggressive marketing of Lonely by suggesting to teen boys that their girlfriends will sleep with them if they buy lots of Hawthorne Heights CDs.
"I [couldn't] care less how many Taking Back Sunday CDs you get me, or how many Panic! at the Disco CDs you buy me. Because I've got dreams, and having sex before I'm ready isn't one of them," one of the kids in the PSA chuckles. "If someone wants to have sex with you, you'd better tell them they need to buy you 100 Hawthorne Heights CDs."
The PSA — a spoof of several government-sanctioned commercials promoting abstinence among teens — is the work of NJ Filmcore, a group of students at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey, and can currently be seen streaming on their Web site, NJFilmcore.com. In it, three guys act out the roles of "concerned girlfriends" (though they also occasionally rock fake moustaches too), talking about how their boyfriends keep pressuring them to have sex.
"I was at the drug store, just randomly walking by the condom aisle, and I had this idea: What if Hawthorne Heights are like condoms, and the more Hawthorne CDs you buy, the healthier you will be?" Filmcore member Erik Raj, 22, told MTV News. "They were sort of being marketed as a product, so why not? So we got together, shot it Sunday night, and I threw it on the Internet Monday at about 2 a.m. The whole thing took about four hours to make."
The PSA spread across the Internet, flooding the Filmcore site with traffic and making the group temporary players on the emo-punk scene. And though Raj maintains he's a big fan of Victory bands ("I love June and the Junior Varsity," he laughed. "I can take or leave Hawthorne"), he thought the label's handling of Hawthorne's new album was a bit much.
"I saw on their MySpace page the letter that was written by [Victory chief] Tony [Brummel], urging people to go out there and buy the Hawthorne CD because it would save rock and roll," he said. "And I just felt that whatever time was put into that letter would've been better spent elsewhere. I think the whole thing seemed kind of desperate. It was like a last cry to get as many numbers as possible. No one likes desperation. It left a sour taste in my mouth."
Raj also said that if the PSA draws the ire of the notoriously gruff Brummel, all he has to do is reach out to the Filmcore and they'll gladly take it off the site. And he hopes that the guys in Hawthorne Heights can take a joke.
"I think if Brummel had a magical time machine, he would certainly want to go back and change a few things he's done in support of this record. Hawthorne too," Raj said. "But hopefully they'll all be able to laugh at it. I mean, everyone's human, and we all make mistakes."